Friendship between church and state - Always bad?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Harley, May 4, 2019.

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  1. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    My latest study has been on the mediatorial dominion of Christ, but my initial promptings to study it, unbeknownst to me, started when I did a deeper study of Psalm 2 possibly back in 2015 or 2016. I was forced to the conclusion that Christ is King over the nations, and it recent months I've been seeing the greater implications of this. But that's for another time.

    I've been going through the Scriptures, and I've done reading in James Bannerman and Roy Blackwood, and it seems that one historical Reformed position is that although the church and state are never to be intermingled or assume one another's functions (sacralism), and though the church is never to govern the state (Popery), and the state is never to be head of the church (Erastianism), still the church and state should act in friendly relations to one another, and the state should countenance and support the church, and the government is responsible to pattern its laws after Scripture. This would include blasphemy laws and Sabbath laws among other things. There's a broad-brush summary, hoping not to debate this at the moment.

    Now growing up, it had just always been assumed that this is a bad thing, that it's good for the government to establish no official religion at all but to remain neutral toward God. Among other arguments, one thing I hear frequently is that whenever the church and state have such friendly ties that it only works for the worst. One example is the decline of the church when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. Though, after taking one history class I wonder about even this example, as I understand that Constantine was a driving force behind the Council of Nicea, and I doubt any of us regrets that.

    So, how has the doctrine described in the third paragraph actually borne out in history? Accounts of the good, the bad, and the ugly all welcome.
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
  2. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    1) The Westminster Assembly!
    2) The aftermath of the Westminser Assembly. :(
    3) Also the various reformations in Biblical history, e.g., Hezekiah, Josiah, Nehemiah.
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    1. State money kills most things it touches, so tread carefully.
    2. "Friendship" could mean a number of things. I would start with "Don't regulate everything" and be fine at that.
  4. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    The 1500s are a good place to see some of the negatives of a State Church.
  5. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Clarity? Assume you are talking to an American who doesn't know anything that happened before 1776 :). I'm confused by #2.
  6. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Which model are we assuming? Popery? Erastianism? Westminsterianism?

    The first two are fully ruled out in my mind, the government is not to be head over the church and the church is not to be heard over the government, and neither is supposed to assume the responsibilities of the other. I'm still rather ignorant on politics of that time period, so I'm trying to figure what kind of church and state relationship you have in mind.
  7. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I have in mind things such as this:

    Though, again, I confess that I am no scholar.
  8. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    I see. Such things as I wish to avoid. I believe White called this a product of sacralism, where there is a confluence of church and state, ie. Church and state are pretty much the same entity.

    No scholar? That makes two of us.
  9. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    This is a subject that overwhelms me with emotion, but I have found that very few Christians in the present time are even open to discuss the topic. So I will be brief.

    Neutrality is a myth. Whatever we may say to support this myth farce is countered by the fact that God disagrees. He speaks of nations as responsible moral agents, and He acts accordingly towards them.

    Isaiah 60:12
    For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

    And as far as the Nations who covenanted with God are concerned. You ain't seen nothing yet.

    Here are two questions:
    Q. Did not Christ come as the Savior of the world?
    A. Surely He did. See first the apostle in 1 John 4:14 where he says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” And then again in John 3:16,17 we are told that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth etc. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.” John was not the only one to make such claims as we have seen in the exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4:42 where many Samaritans said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” And there are over ten other places in the New Testament that likewise call Him the Savior of the world. (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:2; John 1:9; John 1:29; John 6:33; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:47; 2 Corinthians 5:19)

    Q. Is it only to individuals that Jesus has come as Savior?
    A. Yes and No. That needs some explanation.
    Let me begin near the end with the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 where he said in part, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

    Often in Scripture cities and countries are spoken to as if they were living moral persons with abilities to covenant with God or break a covenant. They are mourned over, have children in their care, are exhorted to repent, warned about judgment to come. It is like our concept of incorporation where a body of men are granted personhood with the duties and obligations of a living individual. Consider Jesus address to a city past hope. Luke 13:34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! The same concept applies to families and churches who are, along with nations, treated federally.

    That is all I am going to write for now until I see if there is any interest in hearing more. Usually, I get told that I am wrong. If I start again, I will probably begin with Genesis 3:15 and build from there.
  10. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I’d like to hear more.
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Westminster expressed the ideal; but they were not living that. When one digs into the times and the confluence of the church and the politics of the state, I would raise more sad faces. At least when we have disagreements on the PB one side doesn't try to get the state to put the other in jail; and vice versa when political tides change. And I'm thinking of the Scots during the run up and during the Protester Resolutioner schism; not the Scots and some of the weird sects of the 1640s.
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    How, in your view, did the church decline following Constantine's proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire?
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Could you elaborate?

    For a start, how would you define "State Church" and what examples would you give of the "negatives"?
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    @Harley I’m looking into these same things. The pattern through church history since Constantine seems to be that God has used the magistrate at key times to provide for church councils that decided on important doctrines. I don’t know of one church council that was assembled to nail down doctrinal truth that wasn’t called or protected by the magistrate (someone correct this if wrong). “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:23).

    Just as a matter that may be of interest to you, I recently purchased and am reading “The Story of the Scottish Church” by Thomas McCrie and “The Scottish Covenanters” by J.G. Voss. McCrie is from the seceder line, Voss from the RP line, as you probably know.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  16. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    I concealed it in my post, or tried to in order to avoid contentions, but I find it impossible to argue with the Westminster view. The more I study the more I'm convinced that Christ is King of their nations, and they owe allegiance to Him, and their pattern of government is to be after His law. I think the passages you posted are plain along with a host of others. Maybe that exposes I don't have an unbiased interest in this question, but perhaps the Lord will grace me to wade through historical facts impartially.

    In other words, more than interested to hear what you have to say, especially in reference to Genesis 3:15.

    It's not really my view. I may have held it at one time, but my views on Constantine are warping a little. Some works pose him as the one who institutionalized Christianity and ruined it forever. Some criticize his making Christianity the national faith because he made it fashionable, therefore hypocrites felt less threatened to come in. Others like Eusebius praised Constantine. I have to revisit Constantine to see what I think.

    Though, I don't think anyone ever regrets his calling the Council of Nicea. Unless you're a heretic.

    That's a beautiful passage. This sponsoring by magistrates, was that the case with the Westminster Assembly? That question probably reveals my utter ignorance.

    The Covenanters are on my short list of study subjects. I guess being in the RPCNA it's an unofficial required study.
  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, Parliament called the Westminster divines together.
  18. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well... not until now have I ever seen it spelled out where in church history that the countenancing of the magistrate did good. And am I ever thankful it happened! Well, I knew about Constantine but didn't think much of it. Looking at it, it makes sense... how else could you pull off these councils and assemblies unless there are some tremendous resources to make them happen?
  19. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    1) The Westminster Assembly was called by the civil magistrate. It was the Long Parliament that history books speak of. The goal was to revise the 39 Articles of religion in the Church of England, but it expanded its goals to bring uniformity in religion and public worship in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Hence, the Solemn League and Covenant. Having a united Protestantism among the three kingdoms would then provide a political counter to the spread of Romanism in France and elsewhere that Protestants feared (the "league" part refers to the uniting of the civil magistrate). Truly a revolutionary idea that sadly did not pan out as well as it sounded.

    2) See Chris' post. Basically, you have infighting among Presbyterians. Fighting between Presbyterians and Independents. Westminster ends close to 1650, when many (especially Independents) caught millennarian fever, believing the (post-)millennial kingdom would arrive in 1650. I mean, with the unprecedented uniting of three kingdoms in religion and public worship, wouldn't anyone with a post-millennial vision start getting excited about the date that was calculated "from" Scripture? Oliver Cromwell enters the scene with his new model army and "usurps" the throne (as "Protector," not king), executing Charles I. He dissolves the Long Parliament. The Presbyterians divide; some supporting Charles II, others not. Cromwell is forced to deal harshly with the Presbyterian armies.

    One of the real issue that happened here was an attempt to put the Presbyterian religion (with accommodations for Independents) on the people before their hearts were really into it (to be fair to the Presbyterians, when one tries a new and revolutionary idea, one does not always get it right the first time; perhaps more accommodations would be made in a modern era if the Presbyterian religion were established in a land with lots of Christian denominations). When these common people regained power under Charles II, they unleashed a fierce persecution in Scotland.

    I don't think I have done the issues justice though: this is a complex and interesting period of history. The uniformity in religion never happened though; only in Scotland was Westminster and the Directory fully adopted. In addition to Jeri's recommendations, I recommend the following audio lectures:

    Wikipedia isn't great, but here is a starting point:

    3) I guess while I'm at it.... Hezekiah's reformation restored Mosaic worship back to what it was supposed to be. Nehemiah's work did the same, in a second temple context. Some view his treatment of the man who broke the Sabbath as unduly harsh due to unmitigated zeal, so it is possible that such could be an example of over-reach on the part of the civil magistrate in cooperation with the church. There are also examples of deformation in worship and persecution in the biblical history of Israel. So both good and bad examples of cooperation with the civil magistrate in church history are in the OT.
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
  20. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Some brief resources to encourage further study (the older quotes need to be tidied up a bit): Establishment Principle.
  21. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for the request, but I will have to wait till tomorrow. It's almost time for bed. I get up around 3:00 a.m. every day to spend time in the Word and with its beautiful glorious author.

    Psalms 67:2
    That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
    Psalms 86:9
    All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
  22. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    A little quote from McCrie about how God moved upon the English representatives at Westminster, whose form of church government was largely Anglican, beyond all expectations: “The truth is, our ancestors (speaking of the Presbyterian Scots) entered into this league with England in the hope, and with the desire, that they might be brought into a nearer conformity with the Presbyterian discipline, than with any sanguine expectation of seeing this accomplished. They never supposed that England would submit to their polity without some alteration suited to their (England’s) circumstance, and accordingly they joined with them in constructing a new Confession and Directory. “We are not to conceive,” says Henderson in a letter dated 1642, “that they will embrace our form. A new form must be set down for us all. And although we should never come to this unity in religion and uniformity of worship, yet my desire is to see what form England shall pitch upon before we publish ours.” In short, nothing is more apparent from the whole of their correspondence than that they went up to the Westminster Assembly with very slender hopes of being able to prevail upon the English to submit to Presbytery; and the result filled their hearts with unfeigned astonishment as well as gratitude to God, whose hand they recognized in all their proceedings.”
  23. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Freshman

    Of course church + state is not always bad. God has used the state for good as needed to preserve his seed. I think a state with respect and reverence for its church is at its most healthy. The shining examples are probably only unsustained glimpses of what it truly could look like
  24. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Interesting to think... we shudder today at the idea of the state helping the church, but we'd never take back the major creeds which were formulated because the powers that be had sponsored the councils.
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  25. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No to the original question and church history says otherwise. Consider the case of Frederick III, without whom there would (likely) be no Heidelberg Catechism:

    "Inasmuch as we acknowledge that we are bound by the admonition of the Divine word, and also by natural duty and relation, and have finally determined to order and administer our office, calling, and government, not only for the promotion and maintenance of quiet and peaceable living, and for the support of upright and virtuous walk and conversation among our subjects, but also and above all, constantly to admonish and lead them to devout knowledge and fear of the Almighty and His holy word of salvation, as the only foundation of all virtue and obedience, and to spare no pains, so far as in us lies, with all sincerity to promote their temporal and eternal welfare, and to contribute to the defence and maintenance of the same... And now, whereas both temporal and spiritual offices, government and family discipline, cannot otherwise be maintained-and in order that discipline and obedience to authority and all other virtues may increase and be multiplied among subjects, it is essential that our youth be trained in early life, and above all in the pure and consistent doctrine of the holy Gospel, and be well exercised in the proper and true knowledge of God... And accordingly, with the advice and cooperation of our entire theological faculty in this place and of all Superintendents and distinguished servants of the Church, we have secured the preparation of a summary course of instruction or catechism of our Christian Religion, according to the word of God, in the German and Latin languages; in order not only that the youth in churches and schools may be piously instructed in such Christian doctrine, and be thoroughly trained therein, but also that the Pastors and Schoolmasters themselves may be provided with a fixed form and model, by which to regulate the instruction of youth, and not, at their option, adopt daily changes, or introduce erroneous doctrine."
    -Frederick III, Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism
  26. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Same Frederik who hid Luther in his tower where he translated the Bible?
  27. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No that was Frederick III of Saxony, a Lutheran sympathizer, whereas Frederick III of the Palatinate (of the above quote) was thoroughly Reformed.
  28. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

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  29. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    About 30 minutes ago I read Psalm 72 to my dear wife. What a confirming providence it was to hear Wilson speak from the same Psalm.

    Jesus prayed that the believers will be one (future). One, even as the Father is one with the Son. An outwardly observable oneness that even the world will no longer be able to deny. Will Jesus' prayer be answered? Absolutely! Consider that Jesus' prayer is also a prophecy.

    John 17: 21-23
    21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
    22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
    23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    Amen and Amen.
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